Scientific name: Thymus vulgaris
Parts used: Leaves, Flowers and Essential oil.
This herb is a Mediterranean native, but is cultivated worldwide. Many of you may know it for it's distinctive flavour and scent and make use of it in cooking. While it's culinary uses are doubtfully wonderful, the various properties of thyme mean it has a wide range of other uses, making this simple, little, easy-to-grow herb even more amazing. It is extensively used in cosmetics such as toothpaste, mouthwashes and deodorants as well as in cleaning products and pest deterrents. My favourite use of this herb, however is in herbal medicine!
That's right. Thyme is used by herbalist worldwide in the treatment and support of a variety of conditions.
Anti-spasmodic (reduces spasms of smooth muscle)
Anti-tussive (suppressing cough)
Conditions used for:
Respiratory and Gastrointestinal infections
The essential oil of thyme contains a constituent called thymol which provides the aromatic odour and taste of the herb. The strong antimicrobial action of this herb also owes to this compound. This makes it's useful in infections of the respiratory system (making it useful against colds) and infections/infestations of the gut.
Bronchitis, Asthma and Pertussis
Bronchitis is usually characterised by inflammation and spasm of the respiratory tract with an over secretion of mucus. These mechanisms are what cause the typical symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and congestion and coughing up of mucus. Another action of thyme which is not mentioned above, makes it very useful in bronchitis and asthma. Thyme has Parasympatholytic properties - Yes I know that's a mouthful but it's quite interesting to know.
In basic terms, a part of your nervous system is called the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Activation of the PNS usually causes contraction of the smooth muscle, such as that found in your gut and causes an increase in secretions ie. digestive secretions. Though this aids in proper digestion, the muscle contraction and secretions are not confined to your digestive tract alone. The PNS will also cause contractions of your airway muscles and hyper secreation of mucus in you airways - not something you'd want if you have bronchitis or asthma!
Sometimes people may have unusual high PNS activity, which can contribute to asthmatic symptoms. So parasympatholytic herbs decrease the activity of the PNS, which aid in lessening contractions and mucus production.
Spasms of the gastrointestinal tract (gut)
For the same reasons as above, spasms of the gut such as in colic can be helped with thyme.
Thyme can be used as in several ways. The dried herb can be infused in boiling water to make a tea (must be kept covered whilst steeping to keep essential oil in). A tincture may be used internally and the essential oil may be used internally (under practitioner advice) and as a steam inhalation for respiratory infections and congestion.
Thyme also makes a good herbal cough syrup along with licorice. Click here for a link to the syrup recipe.